Old ‘rookie’ is still a great racer

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport - Craig Lown­des V8 Su­per­car cham­pion

MARK Skaife prob­a­bly shouldn’t have re­tired when he did. I don’t know the full de­tails of why he quit two years ago, but I’m just glad we have got him out of re­tire­ment again to part­ner me in the next two en­durance rounds.

He can read and un­der­stand a car so well and I think he’ll show he still has great speed in him.

Skaifey was the first driver in our new Se­ries II Com­modore on Mon­day at Queens­land Race­way of­fi­cial test­ing and right away the old­est rookie on ‘‘rookie day’’ was on the money with some very quick lap times.

Our times were within a tenth of a sec­ond and he said he felt com­fort­able and con­fi­dent in the car.

We don’t have a team strat­egy yet for who will start, who will fin­ish and who will qual­ify at Phillip Is­land and Bathurst, but there could be some sur­prises.

We both have to qual­ify at Phillip Is­land, but I’m more than happy to hand over the du­ties to Skaifey at Bathurst for the ben­e­fit of the team if he’s the fastest. And I don’t care ei­ther way whether I start or fin­ish.

It’s been 10 years since we drove to­gether and it was great to be shar­ing a car again, though there were a few mi­nor is­sues.

We prac­tised our pit stop driver changes and had a few prob­lems at first be­cause I get out head first and he gets out bum first.

It takes a lit­tle longer to get him out of the car be­cause he’s got to get his walk­ing cane first.

Jokes aside, we’ve got about 30 sec­onds for a pit stop with fuel and we can do the driver change in 20 sec­onds, so it’s not go­ing to be a real prob­lem. We’re also about the same height and weight, so there’s been lit­tle com­pro­mise on seat­ing po­si­tion, though we did move the steer­ing wheel 15mm closer to ac­com­mo­date Skaifey’s un­usual driv­ing style.

I’d re­ally like to thank all the fans who have sent mes­sages of sup­port for my wife, Nat, over the past few weeks.

She’s been struck down with a hematoma on her spleen and that’s why she couldn’t come with me on our spon­sor trip to Europe and the F1 at Spa last week. She needs plenty of rest and thank­fully the rup­ture has now re­duced in size.

It was a real shame she couldn’t come with me be­cause we could have re­vis­ited some of our old haunts from 1997 when we were liv­ing over there and I was rac­ing For­mula 3000.

The trip was great, though it rained for all but two days.

Be­cause I had to get back home for test­ing, I had to leave the track be­fore Aussie Mark Web­ber qual­i­fied on pole. Also, I missed the race be­cause I was in the air.

Af­ter a test de­brief­ing yes­ter­day I flew to Hamil­ton Is­land for a spon­sor func­tion, and I’m off to Mildura this week­end for an­other test in the Holden Colorado that I’m driv­ing in the Aus­tralasian Sa­fari with Kees Weel.

I shoot up to Syd­ney mid-week for more PR, then down to Phillip Is­land for the first of the en­duros.

On the Mon­day af­ter the race we have a mo­tor­bike track day at Broad­ford with Wayne Maxwell and Josh Wa­ters from the Suzuki Aus­tralian Su­per­bike team. Two days later I’m on a plane to Perth for the nine-day Sa­fari and be­fore I know it I’ll be sad­dling up for Bathurst.

At least it’ll give Nat a chance to rest and re­cover while I’m away. Hope­fully she will be well enough to come on our an­nual fam­ily car­a­van pil­grim­age.

On the money: Craig Lown­des and Mark Skaife dur­ing test­ing.

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